Helping kids now more important than ever

12:00 PM, May 19, 2020

BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF YELLOWSTONE COUNTY CONTINUE TO PROVIDE SERVICES FOR KIDS IN NEED

When the school closures were put into effect the week of March 16th, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Yellowstone County knew that the kids they serve would need them more than ever. They also knew that finding ways to serve kids with the stay at home order in place would prove to be a challenge.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Yellowstone County have been serving kids since 1971 and regularly operates five Clubhouses in many of our community’s toughest neighborhoods. The restrictions limiting the number of people who can gather together have unfortunately required the Clubs to limit the number of kids they can serve in person right now. Starting March 23, all Clubs except for the Bair Family Clubhouse have been forced to remain closed. At Bair Family, the Club has been able to open their doors from 7:30 am - 6:00 pm to a limited number of current members who are homeless or have a parent working for one of the hospitals or who are first responders. As space allows, the Club is also serving a few more members in need, but they are still only able to have a very limited number of kids at the Club at any one time.

According to Brian Dennis, President & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Yellowstone County, “For nearly fifty years, our local Club has maintained a singular focus on serving those who need us most. And, today more than ever, we must make every effort to safely serve as many members as we can during these challenging times.”

Kids attending the full day Club experience are finding it very similar to the normal full-day Club experience. They receive three meals per day, math, science and reading enrichment, daily fitness and recreation opportunities and more. The Club’s trained professional staff delivers high quality programs to children age 6 to 18 years old, emphasizing education and career development, the arts, character development, life skills and sports and recreation.

To keep kids and the staff safe, the Boys & Girls Club implemented additional safety and sanitation procedures. Those extra steps include restricting access to the building, taking temperatures of all members and staff when they enter the building and at lunch, limiting group sizes and reducing the interaction between groups during the day, aggressively cleaning each Club space multiple times each day, and a “quarantine” room for members who exhibit symptoms to wait until they are picked up.

Jaime Hill, a respiratory therapist and mother of three Club members says, “When I think of the Club, I think of two words — a godsend. It would be hard to go to work during this crisis without them.” Hill says the support her family has been given by the Clubs goes beyond just what happens inside the Clubs. “I could honestly write a book about how much they have done for my family. Club has been with us through everything – through family loss and through sickness. There isn’t a price I wouldn’t pay to make sure my kids are not only safe but cared for. The staff have taken the time to get to know the kids and our parenting style.”

The Club is still working with local officials to determine what options are available for the Club’s 2020 Summer Program. “Our entire team miss the kids and we are working to resume operations as quickly as it is safe to do so,” says Dennis. ”However, it is just too early to know when Montana will move to Phase 2 of the plan, which is when we expect to be able move beyond our current emergency service program and begin to finalize our summer plans.”

In the meantime, the Clubs are working hard to make sure all of their members have the nutritional, educational and emotional support they need. In addition to the daily experience at the Bair Family Clubhouse, Club professionals are creating a “virtual” Club experience to support and engage with members who are not able to attend their local Clubhouse.

When Clubs are able to re-open their doors to more kids, they know that the need for the kind of help the Clubs provide will be greater than ever. And, Dennis is grateful for all the help the Clubs can get. “I want to extend a very heartfelt thank you to every person in our community who supports the Clubs for your ongoing generosity,” he said. “Thanks to them, not only can the Club do amazing things on a ‘normal’ day, but we also can pivot on a dime to re-create a Club experience that can do amazing things in a time of chaos and uncertainty. While we do not know what new challenges will come tomorrow, I hope our community will continue to help us support these kids in need and their families.”

Families who are in need of the types of the support the Boys & Girls Clubs of Yellowstone County can provide can call (406) 245-4457 for more information. Anyone wanting to support the Clubs can donate online or call (406) 245-4457 to find out more ways they can help.

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